SkyVenture Colorado
Who says you need sky to skydive? For anyone who's ever had an Icarus-like urge to sail through the atmosphere -- but then had second thoughts because of that whole jumping-out-of-the-plane thing -- SkyVenture has the answer. After a brief training session and suit-up, you can fly through the air with the greatest of ease -- ease of mind, that is -- in the indoor skydiving facility's patented wind tunnel. Prices start at about fifty bucks for the basic experience, and gift cards are available in increments of $50 or $100. Geronimo!
It might not be the Empire State Building, but the Wells Fargo Center -- also known as Denver's "cash register" -- still has more than 1,000 steps stretching to the top. That's the rigorous course of the Run the Register race every February; it's a good way to burn off calories after the punishing holiday season. And all your huffing and puffing will help someone else breathe easier: Proceeds benefit the American Lung Association of Colorado, and the last run raised exactly $207,887.93 for research, clean-air initiatives, lung-health workshops and smoking-cessation programs. Just try to top that.
While some zealots are determined to climb every fourteener in the state, more reasonable types are happy to simply scale our highest peak: Mount Elbert, which reaches a whopping 14,433 feet. If you're looking for a reason to ascend to greater heights, you won't find a better one than the annual Climb for Cancer Foundation's 50-50-1, a nationwide effort that sends teams in each state to the highest point in that state on June 23. (Fifty states, fifty peaks, one goal -- get it?) Forget how easy people in Rhode Island have it, and focus on the fact that proceeds from the climb (each team should raise at least $5,000) go toward cancer-research projects and Camp Sunshine, a Florida facility for kids with cancer. Things are looking up.
Downtown Aquarium
For a landlocked state, Colorado has a lot of residents who like to dive and snorkel -- and not many places for them to do it. But now you can get down at the Downtown Aquarium, where Swim With the Fish, Dive With the Fish and Dive With the Sharks allow you to do some underwater communing with our fine-finned friends. The snorkeling program, Swim With the Fish, is open to kids ages six to nine and runs $75. The other two programs are more advanced and require each participant to present a valid SCUBA certification card from a recognized agency (as well as $175). Still, this is the kind of swimming with the fishes we like to encourage.
The park formerly known as the Xcel Substation on 15th Street is now generating a whole new kind of electricity. Powered by the Greenway Foundation, the reclamation of this one-acre parcel of land was the final phase of the Confluence Park plan and was completed last year. The improvements at what's now known as Neusteter Plaza are shocking. Three shade structures protect granite play sculptures created by Andy Dufford in the shapes of a leaf, duck and fish. From here, you can watch bikers, hikers, kayakers and all sorts of residents and tourists doffing their socks to commune with nature. At the edge, a great lawn slopes down to the bank of the South Platte River, where you'll find the city's newest and definitely best beach. Whenever the temperature tops 80 degrees, this fine swath of sand becomes wall-to-wall waders. Spend fifteen minutes at Neusteter Plaza and you'll be re-energized for the week.
For years, the South Platte was the Rodney Dangerfield of rivers. It got no respect -- just a lot of trash. But all that changed with the River Sweep, an annual event combining the organizational skills of REI, Trout Unlimited and Denver Water with the litter-picking talents of hundreds of volunteers. The 2007 event, set for September 29, will mark the fifteenth time that the Greenway Foundation has teamed with Denver to clean the banks of the South Platte along all fifteen miles that run through the city.
What you need is someone who shares your values, understands your dedication to trail maintenance, recycling, litter control and other tenets of pack it in/pack it out. Someone who is going to respect you in the morning -- or the next afternoon. V Outdoors is ready to be your yenta, fixing you up for volunteering with the finest of land-use organizations -- even if you've only got time for a one-night stand. Sign on, pick your area of interest and get out into the great outdoors. You might even score.
REI
The REI flagship store on the Platte River is a mecca for Colorado singles, like Cafeteria or Cain in New York. There are always plenty of pretty hippie chicks and urban adventure gals around. But for even better odds, sign up for one of REI's many classes, whether climbing basics or bike-fitting or photography. Go to www.rei.com and prepare to say hi to the hot redhead in the back.
Gamma Gallery
Confluence Kayaks is a wonderland of kayaking information: From DVDs to books to gear to floats, Confluence has it all -- as well as a doting staff of hunky eco freaks ready to personally instruct you on the finer points of kayaking. When you're ready to take things to the next level, sign up for the Tuesday-night pool classes and learn how to roll. Hey, keep it clean over there.
Hirshorn Park
When a neighborhood is in transition, everything is in the process of becoming something else. In Wash Park and Cherry Creek North, the last bungalows are transitioning into three-unit, three-story townhomes. In LoDo, the last warehouses are transitioning into lofts. And in Highland, the neighborhood du jour just north of downtown, a traditional baseball diamond built for immigrant children more than fifty years ago is now transitioning into an unauthorized dog park. Hirshorn Park only takes up half a block, and half of that space is fenced off for a playground and softball diamond. But the chain link that was so good at stopping out-of-bound balls is equally good at stopping off-leash dogs. And since Highland's new residents seem to be raising more dogs than kids, park usage has picked up. For the health and safety of everyone, let's hope the dog poop is, too.

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